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How To Fire A Toxic Client

You have to agree there is nothing more irritating and mentally exhausting than dealing with a toxic client. However, that is one of the harsh realities of the actual working environment, especially if you are freelancer or self-employed.

It would be rather illogical on your part to expect every of your client to come with a sugar-coated exterior and appreciate you for the quality of work or service you aim to provide. No matter how much you strive to put out your best effort, you will always face some form of toxicity from the clients. Now, there are a lot of people who try not to care about these aspects, and attempt to proceed anyway. However, you cannot underestimate the significance of a negative output in your work environment.

Any form of toxic output from your clients directed towards your product or service will almost certainly deteriorate your work efficiency. After all, the output from a client is one of the basic foundations of determining your business growth. A positive review will encourage you to work consistently and achieve productive results. A pessimistic assessment, on the other, can act as a tool to degrade your morale and that ultimately affects the quality of your work.

It is therefore of utmost significance to take a bold step and do what is right – fire your toxic client (unless, of course, if you feel you can come to a rational understanding and establish a neutral ground).

However, there are certain aspects you need to consider before firing your downbeat client.

When to Fire Your Client?

The concept of firing an employee or a client seems fairly rudimentary, right? However, you should keep in mind that things are extremely sensitive when you enter the professional level of corporate business. Firing a single client can have a ripple effect, either due to their strong market influence or your immature decision making.

Not all clients who display critical assessment of your work quality are necessarily toxic. Hence, firing a client based on their critic that was genuinely meant for producing a productive output would be unethical on your part. You should, therefore, draw out some conclusive aspects to look for before you can jump to the ultimate analysis of firing the client.

Here are some key factors to help you realise, it’s time to fire the client.

  • Consistently displays a negative attitude towards your work output no matter how good your product’s/ service quality is.
  • Ordering or expecting unrealistic/ unreasonable results far beyond your organisation capacity on a persistent occasion.
  • Exhibits potential signs of endorsing physical or mental abuse. This can include sexual harassment, making physical threats, displaying extremely rude etiquettes to your employees or even yourself.
  • The client is dishonest and unprofessional while executing any business contract with you or your organisation, leading to the development of significant uncertainty and minimal trust.
  • There is a lack of respect from the client’s perspective. Nothing is worth more than mutual respect in the corporate business market. If your client can’t abide with that, well, it’s definitely time to show them the door.

How to fire your Client (Nicely!)?

As much as it would liberate you soul and provide unimaginable pleasure to scream “You’re fired!” to a toxic client’s face, it would be an act of utmost unprofessionalism, and something that can come back to haunt your business as well. There are also some set of definitive laws you will have to comply before taking such extreme steps. Thus, knowing the ideal mechanism to fire your client plays a crucial role.

Come up with a set of practical reasons

As much as you loathe the pessimistic attitude of a client, the reason alone is not sufficient to fire them. Make a list of things or unprofessional etiquettes (do not hold back) and present them in the most professional tone possible.

Be adamant

The key to fire your toxic client effectively (and nicely!) depends on your tone. You know why you don’t want to continue the business relationship anymore, so, make a confident and adamant approach. A toxic client will take advantage if you show signs of uncertainty or hesitation on your part.

Refrain from blaming the client directly

Remember the aim is to end the partnership on a professional note. To achieve this, you have to swallow some tough pills and divert the blame somewhere else rather than accusing them directly. This will allow the client to approach the situation in a more practical manner, rather than felling offensive about the accusations.

No means No

Many clients may try to offer some counter-proposals by promising a positive change in the nature of the partnership. Prepare yourself, so you don’t fall for such sugar-coated offers. Make it absolutely clear that you want to pursue a different business direction (on a nice tone, of course!)

How to Avoid Toxic Clients?

Instead of going through the awkward and tedious process of firing a toxic client, it would be a thousand time easier if you could avoid signing a partnership bond with one in the first place.

Check the client’s past records

Don’t simply ink the agreement just because a client offers good figures. This is a classic rookie mistake you should definitely avoid. Instead, investigate their past relationship with other corporations. If possible, ask around to validate their professional nature.

Set a strict professional boundary

Any relationship without a clear set of boundaries is bound to come head-to-head with chaos eventually, and this could not have been more accurate for business partnership. Establish a strict set of rules and professional limits, and the resultant consequences, so you don’t have to deal with unprofessional shenanigans in the later stages.

Learn to say NO

Saying No to a client can be extremely difficult. However, these are the small instances that produce a ripple effect which can ultimately create a sense of obligation in the long run, making it even more difficult to control the client’s influence. Learn to say NO directly if and when the client makes any form of unreasonable demands.

Don’t be afraid to make your points

Some clients need to be whacked on the back of their head to make them realise where they are going wrong. As long as you’re not stepping out of your professional boundary, it’s okay to approach the client with some productive changes. For instance, if their business scheduling is disorganised, that obviously is bound to affect your work as well. Hence, recommend a productive suggestion to stick with the proper work schedule to avoid any misunderstanding later on.

Anton Psak


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